March delivered warmer than normal temperatures to areas from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast, while near-normal recordings prevailed in the Great Basin and along the Pacific Coast. Most notably, average temperatures pushed the mercury to more than 12 degrees above normal throughout the Great Lakes region, as well as much of the Corn Belt and northern Great Plains, promoting an earlier than normal start to spring fieldwork.
Storm systems brought above average precipitation to the Pacific Northwest, Texas, and much of the Delta during the month. Conversely, moisture accumulation was significantly below normal in the Southwest and Rocky Mountains.
Row crop producers in many States were working their fields as March began, cultivating, applying herbicides and fertilizer, and pre-irrigating before planting this year's crops. In portions of the South, corn, cotton, and sorghum were planted early in the month. Rice producers in California were draining fields mid-month, while growers in Texas and parts of the Delta were seeding their fields. Sugarcane growers in Florida and Texas remained busy throughout the month wrapping up the harvest of the 2011 crop. By April 1, corn planting was active in half of the 18 major estimating States, with3 percent of the Nation's crop in the ground, slightly ahead of both last year and the 5-year average. However, despite the opportunity to plant early, producers in some locations remained hesitant out of concern of a spring freeze.
Warmer than normal temperatures coupled with adequate soil moisture throughout the month provided favorable growing conditions for developing small grain crops in many areas. Winter wheat fields in portions of the southern United States were jointing and heading ahead of the normal pace.
Conversely, winter wheat in the High Plains and Trans-Pecos regions of Texas struggled developmentally due to continued dry weather and high winds.Late-month storm systems brought beneficial rain to portions of the central and southern Great Plains, boosting soil moisture levels and improving crop conditions in several major growing regions. However, isolated areas received more than 5 inches of rainfall which led to lowland flooding and increased prevalence of powdery mildew and rust in some fields.
Vegetable growers spent the month harvesting their remaining winter crops, while readying fields and planting spring crops. Watermelons were planted in northern Florida mid-month. Above average temperatures prompted early blooming and budding in a variety of tree fruit, nut, and grape crops, leaving growers concerned about a possible spring freeze. By month's end, pea-sized fruit were evident on Valencia trees in Florida.
See all of the data, coverage and analysis of today's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and Crop Production reports.